We had accepted a quest. A wonderful, seemingly impossible quest that led to much more than what we had ventured out to find: a sweater.
My family and I traveled to Ireland one summer because of our Irish ancestry. “A sweater,” proclaimed my mother one chilly winter evening at the dinner table. “I want a sweater from our clan from Ireland, the Healy clan.” But, of course, she did not want just any sweater. No, she wanted a sweater that was made right there in Ireland. A sweater manufactured anywhere other than Ireland simply would not do, and it was up to us to find an authentic shop. And so we ventured out, across land and sea, to find a simple sweater in Ireland that would eventually lead to one of the most life changing experiences I will ever encounter.
Finding a sweater from the Healy clan was easy enough. As it happens (and as you’re probably aware), the Healy clan is well established in Ireland. However, my mother would remain unsatisfied until she found the perfect sweater. That translates into hours and hours of shopping in the rainy streets of Dublin. Yet at the end of the day, no one in my family wore a somber expression — we couldn’t have had a more wonderful, exciting, and oddly educational adventure.
The quest for a sweater led us to remarkable people, historical sites, and culture. For seven days we were taught a fantastic history lesson, not from a teacher or guide, but from cab drivers, bar tenders, and ancient castles that always seemed to be, conveniently, just 10 to 20 minutes away. The people were welcoming and eager to start conversations with us. We were foreigners, but we felt right at home.
After striking out in Dublin, we moved on to what would become my favorite place in the world: Galway. With the beach right outside my window and a front row seat to the impeccable sunrise every morning, it was hard not to fall in love with such a quiet, yet extraordinarily busy place.
We decided to walk to the center of town since it was just a few minutes down the street from the quaint bed and breakfast we were staying in. We heard the sweater potential before we saw it. Music was bouncing off the street walls and colliding with the chatter of bustling people. Shops were tightly packed together by the endless narrow streets. Galway had everything — including the warm wool sweater my mother was searching for.
Having found our prize, we ventured outside of Galway, leaving the cobbled streets for great rolling green hills and beautifully made stone fences to arrive at the Cliffs of Moher. My family and I walked along the cliffs, entranced by the glory of something so simple, yet so captivating. As the wind blew my hair back and the sun bathed my skin, I realized how little of the world I had seen, and how little of the world I understood. While the quest to find the perfect sweater had ended, I realized, my own quest had just begun.
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